I love the idea of Big Blue Cuddle, with a percentage of all sales going directly to children’s charities. What inspired you to launch your company and why are these donations important to you?
I’ve been a strategy consultant for years and have always been fascinated by businesses that positioned themselves on that fine line between for-profit and not-for-profit. I knew that one day I wanted to start my own business who would also be structurally designed to “do good” somehow. I enjoyed my job, but felt that I was only helping big companies get even bigger. While there is of course nothing wrong with that, I wanted to help a company get big so that it could do even MORE good.
I buy most clothes for my children in Holland, where I feel clothes are more colourful and playful than in the UK. While brainstorming about “what business to start” I called up my favourite children’s clothes brands and it is while talking to them that I had the idea behind Big Blue Cuddle.
I realised that I could buy their surplus stock from previous collections for a significantly discounted price and sell them here for the full price as they were completely new in this market. I was thereby creating a margin that I could use to support charities who are helping children in some way.
Actually the suppliers, the brands I called up, were so enthusiastic about the idea and so keen to be introduced in the UK under this positive light of supporting charities, that they were prepared to offer me the discount I required even on a selection of their current stock.
So now when you shop on Big Blue Cuddle you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something original and 15% to 50% of what you’re spending will be donate to the children charity you select yourself. The best thing is that the customer is not spending a penny extra, it is the suppliers who are making a sacrifice and making the donations possible.
What charities is Big Blue Cuddle linked with and how do you choose between them?
There are so many brilliant charities out there that choosing them is one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I do. There are 4 children charities on the Big Blue Cuddle website to choose from at any given time and each charity is “adopted” for one year.
I change the charities to give other organisations the same opportunities and to allow people to discover about new causes they might not know about.
At the moment we’re supporting:
- First Touch, who raises funds for St George’s Hospital’s neonatal unit
- Access Sport, who supports local voluntarily-run clubs allowing disadvantaged children to participate in sport for free
- Ambitious about Autism, offering special education and support to children with autism
- The Sick Children’s Trust who offers free accommodation in the proximity of the country’s main paediatric hospitals to the parents of children being treated there.
See our “deserving charities” page for more information
I select the charities myself, after meeting with them and understanding what their objectives are and how they are working towards them. I try to select a variety of causes and organisations who are having an impact in their area and who can most use our support in raising awareness about their work.
What’s your favourite piece in this season’s collection?
This winter we’ve extend our offering to shoes thanks to the support of the founder of Mina, a wonderful Swedish brand. I love their boots with their quirky laces and immediately bought some for my children. It’s great when a designer gets the balance just right between being stylish and childish. You’re a child only once and I love clothes that acknowledge that.
The Mina boots, which come in beautiful starry boxes, have a starry lining and can be worn with fun laces or classic cotton ones.
Born to an American mother and Italian father you grew up in Italy, studied in Belgium and moved to London in 2001. Where’s home for you?
Easy, where my husband and children are! I feel at home everywhere and love change, however we have been living in London for almost 12 years now (that’s the most I have lived in one place, ever)… so I guess that London would be a good answer!
You’ve developed your own organic and homemade cuisine for busy working mums. What’s your favourite winter recipe?
I’m passionate about eating what’s in season and getting the children to taste as many different things as I can think of. I love cooking and in winter I love just throwing together soups with just about anything I find in the fridge or at the market.
Making minestrone is really easy: sauté some onions, carrots, and celery, even bacon if you wish. Add chopped vegetables – any combination will taste lovely Add potatoes or pasta (or pastina, tiny pasta you can find at the supermarket – but remember to add the pasta only at the last 10-15 minutes). You can also add pulses such as lentils or beans. Add plenty of your favourite stock and season to taste. Leave to simmer until all the vegetables are cooked. Serve drizzled with olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese and accompanied by some nice toasted bread.
What’s the one baby product you cannot live without?
My sling. The things I have done “wearing” my baby! Especially number 3. It was the only way I could feed the other 2 at that witching hour between 5 and 6 in the afternoon when a tiny baby just cries and cries.
What’s in the pipeline for Big Blue Cuddle, are there other brands you’d love to work with?
I’m always on the look out for new creative designers and there are new brands joining us every month. So it’s always worth browsing our site. We’re really growing quickly at the moment, also offering other products such as shoes, blankets and a few toys.
Your father is Italian, do you feel it is important for your children to learn another language at an early age and are you bi-lingual?
Yes, I grew up in Italy, speaking Italian and English and found that being bilingual has really helped me in all sorts of circumstances, personal and professional. It has also made it easy for me to subsequently learn more languages.
My husband, who is from The Netherlands, and I both feel that it is very important that our children learn our languages, so they are growing tri-lingual, speaking English, Italian and Dutch. A bit confusing for our friends, but the children don’t know any different and will hopefully grow up to feel a little bit connected to all these cultures.
Besides, it’s handy to always have a language in which to tell each other a secret
How do you juggle three children with such a growing and successful business?
Team work. All this wouldn’t be possible without the support of my husband who takes on a lot of chores when he’s back from work. I work everyday until the children get out from school and virtually every evening. The down side is that basically there is NO free time: I’m always either working, taking care of the kids or of the house, or all 3 at the same time.
The fact that the business is also helping children charities helps me a lot personally. I’m super motivated to put into it everything I have and it makes me feel a little guilty when I have to neglect my children because of work.
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
I’ve asked a couple of friends for suggestions on this one and their replies included “Italian passion”, “American business sense”, “determination” and a “crazy wish to please others”.